Spoiled Rotten on the Riviera
It was decided that our French eight-kilo turkey had a completely different shape from its American cousins (longer breasts) and as was expected, it cooked in half the time, but had a lot more flavor. Like most of you celebrating the American holiday, our group ‘pigged out’ on a table-full of homemade traditional Thanksgiving dishes, and once again gave ‘thanks’ for all we had in life, albeit a life in France. “Our group” belonged to an eclectic bunch of Expat friends who gathered in the Provençal town of Ansouis for an annual feast and evidently good times — just like we did last year.
And just like last year, it was a perfect opportunity before sitting down to the sumptuous dinner to take a drive through the hill towns of the Luberon — Lourmarin, Bonnieux, Roussillon — and stopping in Ménerbes (the town made famous by Peter Mayle’s “A Year in Provence”) to visit an apartment a client of ours is considering purchasing. With stone arched walls like a centuries-old wine cellar and a large terrace overlooking the hillside, the apartment seemed like a small slice of heaven, if not a perfect vacation home and wise investment!
On Friday morning before my friend and I pointed the car in the direction of Nice, we made two stops — one at the weekly open-air market in the nearby town of Lourmarin — ‘for old time’s sake.’ It’s a particularly bountiful market in one of the region’s most picturesque towns and it was a bit more authentic than our next stop — Ikea.
In keeping with the spirit of last year’s excursion to Ikea, remembering when my sister and I spent seven hours there purchasing everything (and I mean EVERYTHING) for the Nice apartment, we had the usual no-frills Ikea lunch and then stayed only long enough to purchase a few extra drinking glasses and things that only Ikea can do so well and so inexpensively. There is no Ikea yet in Nice — so this one situated between Aix-en-Provence and Marseille is the next best thing.
Then we hit the A8 Autoroute to arrive in Nice two hours later, drop the Hertz rental car at avenue Gustave V just steps from the apartment, high-tail the bags up the stairs to “Le Matisse” and head out to meet up with two American couples, long-time readers of Parler Paris, who coincidentally live in the same building on the Old Port, known at “Le Neptune”.
Independently these two women wrote me unknowingly, who met each other when they visited their “caves” at the same time, discovering that their cellars were as adjacent as their lives and became fast friends. One of the couples lives in Seattle half the year; the other has been a permanent resident for many years. We had the good fortune of visiting their two beautiful apartments with beautiful terraces overlooking the Old Port…and over drinks getting to know them a bit — a new beginning to establishing a network of American friends in Nice. We vowed to meet again upon my return in two weeks when we film our eleventh House Hunters International here in Nice.
Saturday was a ‘work day’ — and a FUN day. We met with Americans who are considering an investment in Nice and then visited with the participants of the House Hunters International episode. Again, with amazing synchronicity, we discovered that two of the apartments were within three doors of each other — again unplanned and completely coincidental. When such synchronicity takes place, you can only believe that you’re in the right place at the right time and that life is following the grand plan just as it should. And so it seems here on the Riviera after so many years of living Paris-centric.
On Sunday morning we headed to the Cours Saleya for a perusal of the flower and produce market for an eyeful of color than hopped the 400 bus for a whopping one euro to go to Saint-Paul de Vence — a ride of just one hour. Transportation along the Côte d’Azur is amazingly efficient and inexpensive.
It had been at least 10 years since visiting the walled hilltop medieval town filled with art galleries and chic boutiques. It’s a world unto itself, this commune of now 3,500 (having more than doubled in the last 50 years) which can boast of such celebrated residents as Yves Montand, Simone Signoret, Marc Chagall, Bernard Henri Levy and James Baldwin. Even ex-Rolling Stone, Bill Wyman has a home there. I can understand why — it oozes charm and is perfectly situated high above the Riviera with easy access to the area’s best communities.
Tomorrow I will be on a new adventure to the hill towns in Italy known as the “Cinque Terre.” “This is the rugged portion of coast on the Italian Riviera in the Liguria region of Italy, to the west of the city of La Spezia. ‘The Five Lands’ is composed of five villages: Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. The coastline, the five villages, and the surrounding hillsides are all part of the Cinque Terre National Park and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.” (Wikipedia.org) On Wednesday, I’ll be writing you from Monterosso and report on our little taste of Italy.
What I am learning is that Nice is no replacement for Paris — but is an added dimension to life in France that is proving to be even more enriching. With each excursion, I discover more and gain a deeper understanding of the Riviera’s casual, yet elegant lifestyle.
Having both cities in my life now is truly a blessing and anyone can see, is spoiling me rotten!
A la prochaine…
Editor, Parler Nice
P.S. To all you New Orleanians, American in Paris author and winner of the Paris Prize for Fiction, Timothy J. Smith, will be reading from his most recent book, “Cooper’s Promise” this coming Wednesday, November 28th at 6 p.m. at Octavia Books, 513 Octavia Street. Don’t miss it! For more information, visit Timothy Jay Smith.